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17 Oscar-Winning Movies That Got Away With Not Explaining Major Things

Updated August 15, 2019 29.9k votes 9.1k voters 828.5k views17 items

List RulesVote up the Academy Award winners that were better off for never explaining that one thing. Vote down the films where the lack of explanation doesn't really work.

It’s hard to make a movie. Wait, no, that’s an understatement. It’s almost impossible. Even if you have a perfect script, there are almost infinite unquantifiable forces working against you, screwing up your vision, from problems with cast and crew to permit issues, weather, financing, and endless post-production delays. It’s a wonder any film is ever completed, let alone good enough to win an award. Hell, even if you manage to make an awards-worthy film, you have to make creative choices to get to the finish line. Such choices may include cutting cumbersome exposition, or simply throwing the audience into a world of absolutes, devoid of exposition. Despite the accolades, there are plenty of unexplained things in Oscar winning movies, a lot of which boil down to lapses in logic. Characters disappear or know things they shouldn’t, and sometimes, well, stuff just happens.

Academy Award movies with unexplained plot points aren’t new; they’ve been around since the little golden statues were first handed out. While it stands to reason Academy Award winners that probably didn’t deserve it would have purposeless scenes or characters who could suddenly connect the A and B plots, a lot of Oscar winning films with unexplained moments are considered to be among the best ever made. So why are they so confusing?

  • Photo: Paramount

    Oscars: Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Visual Effects, Best Film Editing

    The Problem: That's not his kid right? Or is it? Most sane people with things to do saw Forrest Gump once and never watched it again, but the question still lingers - is Jenny's kid Forrest's son? 

    In most films, this enigmatic ending would be perfectly fine, but Forrest Gump doesn't play with the rules of cinema, and its philosophy is straight forward. Jenny tells Forrest he is the father of her son, but she offers no proof. Still, Jenny wouldn't lie to Forrest, would she? Forrest Gump wears its heart on its sleeve, so if the producers wanted the audience to know Jenny's kid was indeed not Forrest's, they would have come out and said it, right? But for some fans, the question of whether or not Forrest is really the father lingers.

    Better without an explanation?
  • Oscars: Best Original Music Score

    The Problem: Everyone loves The Wizard of Oz, but it's got major problems with glossing over serious things the audience wants to know. First of all, Glinda waits until the end of the film to tell Dorothy she could have gone back to Kansas with her ruby slippers. Was she just using Judy Garland to kill her rivals? Or is this a case of the movie not being possible if Dorothy goes home? Talk about narrative convenience.

    Secondly, how does Scarecrow talk when he doesn't have a brain? He sings a whole song about it, and when Dorothy asks him how he can talk he responds, "I don't know. But some people do an awful lot of talking and haven't got any brains at all." That's a spectacular non-answer for someone without a brain. 

    Later in the film, Scarecrow is awarded a diploma by The Wizard, which isn't the same as a brain, but a representation of intellect that looks much less gross than a brain in a jar. This either means the Scarecrow had a brain the entire time or the whole thing is a poorly written metaphor. 

    Better without an explanation?
  • Photo: MGM

    Oscars: Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Actor, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay

    The Problem: The Silence of the Lambs is an excellent movie with outstanding performances; however, much of the film relies on the audience to ignore the fact that some of the major revelations happen because they have to happen. When Special Agent Jodie Foster consults Hannibal Lecter in order to gain insight into Buffalo Bill, it turns out Lecter knows who Bill is, and knows everything about him, because they worked together at one point. Talk about good luck.

    Better without an explanation?
  • Photo: Lionsgate

    Oscars: Best Visual Effects, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, Best Makeup

    The Problem: It's a fool's errand to parse science fiction logic, but as Shakespeare said, "James Cameron films sleep in a fool's ear." Everyone who has seen a Terminator film (let's all agree the Terminator franchise ends with Judgment Day) knows only organic material can travel back in time, unless you take a robot and cover it in skin. Fine. But if that's the case how do the machines send T-1000 back to kill John Connor? And why do they wait so long? Is time travel contingent on a certain amount of time passing between jumps? Judgment Day is fun, but its science nullifies its existence, relegating it to the realm of fan fiction. That's right, nerds. T2 never happened. 

    Better without an explanation?